Ever since I wrote about peak oil last year, I’ve been collecting references to “Peak X”. Of course, the key idea, Hubbert’s Peak applies to any resource extraction, where the resource is finite. So it’s not surprising that wikipedia now has entries on:

And here’s a sighting of a mention of Peak Gold.

Unlike peak oil, some of these curves can be dampened by the appropriate recycling. But what of stuff we normally think of as endlessly renewable:

  • Peak Water – it turns out that we haven’t been managing the world’s aquifers and lakes sustainably, despite the fact that that’s where our freshwater supplies come from (See Peter Gleick’s 2010 paper for a diagnosis and possible solutions)
  • Peak Food – similarly, global agriculture appears to be unsustainable, partly because food policy and speculation have wrecked local sustainable farming practices, but also because of population growth (See Jonathan Foley’s 2011 paper for a diagnosis and possible solutions).
  • Peak Fish – although overfishing is probably old news to everyone now.
  • Peak Biodiversity (although here it’s referred to as Peak Nature, which I think is sloppy terminology)

Which also leads to pressure on specific things we really care about, such as:

Then there is a category of things that really do need to peak:

And just in case there’s too much doom and gloom in the above, there are some more humorous contributions:

And those middle two, by the wonderful Randall Monroe make me wonder what he was doing here:

I can’t decide whether that last one is just making fun of the the singularity folks, or whether it’s a clever ruse to get people realize Hubbert’s Peak must kick in somewhere!

6 Comments

  1. I’m sure you have heard the cliche that the stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones, nor the iron and bronze ages because they ran out of iron or bronze. It is just that the technology moved on, and they no longer wanted or needed to use the old technology as much as previously. Of course, we use far more stone, iron and bronze now than they ever did then. So we are not talking about Peak Stone, Peak Iron or Peak Bronze. 

    Oil is said to have superseded coal, as depicted by the demise of the steam train – but we use far more coal now than ever before.
    Although generally accepted to be finite (except for core-genic theorists) the issue about oil, and some other resources, is not that they are running out (I predict that there will be oil, gas and whatever else, long after we humans have driven ourselves to extinction – and will wager handsomely on this ! ) but that we are running out of oil that is cheap to extract with existing technology. There’s lots more, but the financial or environmental cost, risk and technical challenges will get higher and higher. So, one assumes, we will eventually find alternatives that we prefer, and will peak out of choice. Hopefully sooner rather than later, and hopefully more environmentally sustainably. But don’t bank on it. Human behaviour seems pathologically short sighted.
    So, add to your list: Peak Humans.

  2. Peak Whale Oil. It happened 1845.

    We’re done extracting, so you can see the whole curve, including how crazy the price oscillations got on the other side.

  3. I think peak Stoat was a few years back.

  4. peter alsop again

    At http://www.peakauto.com they are well ahead of you:
    PEAK Motor Oil | PEAK Antifreeze | PEAK Wipers | PEAK Electronic

    Hopefully we have passed Peak Nuclear Weapons (rather than foothill), peak smallpox, peak SARS.

    Maybe worth looking for troughs too.
    Trough Londdon air quality (=peak pollution)
    Etc

  5. I tried searching for “peak peak”, but didn’t get any useful hits.

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